“My sincerest apologies, Anakin, my boy,” the Chancellor says as the door slides closed, striding past him to sit behind his desk.
Anakin finds it hard to tear his eyes away from the bruises on Obi-Wan’s face, the way his lips pull and crack around the cloth gag, the fact that he’s here, that he’s alive. He almost can’t believe it, needs to get his fingers on the proof, feel Obi-Wan’s heartbeat, make sure he’s not hurt aside from what’s visible. But he feels struck where he is, unable to move, unsure if his limbs will hold his weight if he tries.
For a second, his mind is aflame with the whiplash of it all, burning itself with the strength of his relief and his rage, but then he takes a breath, then another one, and he realizes something else quite entirely.
It’s quiet in his head. If the Force still surrounds him at all, it’s doing its best to remain undetected
His immediate reaction is panic, as he brings his hands up to scrabble uselessly at the collar around his neck. He’s never been cut off from the Force before. He didn’t know it was even actually possible to live without feeling its weight around his shoulders, in his mind, in the air.
Palpatine must pick up on his fear, because the old man continues in a patronizing voice, “You must understand the necessity of the Force collar, of course. You have a history of being quite...volatile.”
From the corner, Obi-Wan snorts around his gag. Anakin is glad he’s finding something humorous about this entire affair, because Anakin for one is drawing a blank.
Anakin does know one thing though: this isn’t a conversation he wants to have on his knees.
He stands slowly, keeping his eyes firmly fixed on the Chancellor. “I don’t quite understand, sir,” he says.
“No, you wouldn’t, would you?” the old man replies scornfully. “Come sit. I’ll explain everything.”
Anakin moves until he’s standing just behind one of the chairs. “I’m fine, thank you.”
Palpatine sighs and turns his head to look at Obi-Wan. “Is he always this impossibly willful, General?”
Obi-Wan shrugs and then nods. Anakin can’t believe he’d been even a little upset at the news he’d died. The way he’s going now, Anakin’s gonna kill him himself.
If they get out of this alive.
“Oh, Anakin,” the Chancellor turns his slimy attention back to him, which is very unfortunate on the whole. “You know as well as I do that you were supposed to be a Jedi.”
“I like to think that I’ve made the best of my situation,” he says cooly.
Palpatine shakes his head in a pantomime of grandfatherly distress. “Your talents are wasted on your whoring, my boy. The power you possess--it is remarkable. What you lack is vision, ambition. Drive.”
“We can’t all be politicians, sir.”
“Rightly so, Anakin. I truly believe some people are born to be leaders, others followers. We all have our purposes. We all have our...uses.”
Anakin tenses even further. “And your vision, sir? You already lead the galaxy and command an army, I admit that I can’t see much more you can do beyond being the Chancellor of the Republic.”
The Chancellor shakes his head. “A narrow-minded statement if I have ever heard one. No. I have spent my life in service to this galaxy, my boy. No one understands more than I how far the Republic has fallen. We have grown complacent, static. Stagnation is the worst thing that can happen to a galaxy, and the fault always lies at the center, in the government.
The Senate is corrupt, the Jedi power-hungry. I saw this before anyone else and it gave me the willpower to rise through the ranks, to become Chancellor, to become a vehicle for real change. But still I found myself constrained, powerless.”
Anakin crosses his arms. “It was my understanding that the Senate has granted you every emergency power you have asked for.”
“Stop gaps, Anakin, merely stop gaps. No, the only thing that will save the galaxy now is a complete dismantling of the system and its outdated conventions. Don’t you see that sometimes there has to be destruction before there can be greatness? The Republic has served its purpose. It is stuck in its ways, just as the Jedi are. Remember, my boy, they rejected you for being too old when you would have been the best of them all, the most powerful! If they could have let go of their Code--if they could have seen--
“The Jedi were afraid of it, of you. But I understand, I understand its— your potential. You could be the strongest force in the galaxy if you had the right....teacher. One who could guide you to reach the heights you are capable of. You could change the fate of the galaxy, my boy, with the proper master.”
He doesn’t like the way the word sounds rolling off of Palpatine’s tongue. The collar around his neck feels heavier than it did before, and he knows at this moment that this is a man who he’ll never call master.
“Or failing that, the proper motivation,” Palpatine adds silkily with an air of disappointment when Anakin doesn’t give him any sort of verbal response. His head tilts towards Obi-Wan’s bound form, and Anakin feels his eyes narrow in rage without his permission.
He knows he needs to rein in his emotions, that Palpatine is benefiting from how unbalanced Anakin’s feeling right now, but it’s hard. He is too vulnerable, standing here with his heart so close and in such a precarious situation. Palpatine has a reading on him, and it’s more accurate than Anakin would like. “Is he my motivation?” Anakin gets out between gritted teeth, fingers digging into the back of the chair. “I get him if... you get me?”
“In a way, I suppose,” the old man says consideringly. “Perhaps given enough time, he could be yours. But now? No, my foolish boy. Obi-Wan Kenobi is a traitor of the worst kind, and a traitor must always be one of two things: dead or imprisoned. He has killed his master in cold-blood, and he had planned to do the same to me. I cannot allow him to remain unpunished, but I understand you hold a level of...affection for the man.
No, you have my word that I will not kill him. Join me and he will be allowed to live, although I believe it will not take long for him to resent you for that choice. There are, after all, worse things than a quick death.”
Anakin blinks. He can’t think of a single thing worse than Obi-Wan Kenobi, dead.
“Ah, would you like a demonstration?” There’s a sort of gleeful malice in the Chancellor’s voice that raises the hairs on Anakin’s neck.
But between one second and the next, Palpatine’s hand is filled with something that looks a lot like lightning and then Obi-Wan is screaming around his gag, convulsing against his bindings.
It has to only be five seconds at most, but watching it happen feels as though Anakin’s living through an eternity. It feels almost as if Anakin is the one suffering, just watching this torture. How many times could Obi-Wan endure this and live? How many times before Obi-Wan’s love for Anakin turned into resentment? This is his fault after all. They’re here now because Anakin had demanded something from Obi-Wan and the man had tried to deliver it and had gotten caught. They’re here because Anakin hadn’t been satisfied with Obi-Wan’s love, had needed to have it on his terms.
Palpatine turns back to him, satisfied, but Anakin cannot rip his eyes away from the shaking form on the floor. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, he thinks, wishing more than ever he could feel their Force bond in his mind. I’m sorry. How did I not see you loved me the same way I loved you? We were so stupid and now you’re paying for it and it’s--
“Was that painful to see, my boy? Would you rather me kill him now? I could so easily. The Republic would applaud me, I believe, for bringing an end to the Separatist General’s life. But I will not, if you choose to stand by my side.”
Anakin swallows down his rage. There’s a large part of him that wants to take the lightsaber on his back and skewer the other man with it. But he knows he’ll only have one chance for this. He knows, quite certainly, that Palpatine is too good of a strategist to allow Anakin to leave this room alive without joining him, willingly or unwillingly. He knows too much now. Even with no proof, he’s a threat that must be neutralized. And Obi-Wan’s presence is a first attempt at controlling him. If unsuccessful, he’s sure there are others lined up, each as dispensable as the last.
Palpatine must be counting on Anakin’s emotions getting the best of him. He’d seen it happen already, twice in the past thirty minutes. He knows the kind of man Anakin is, knows how deeply he cares for Obi-Wan. He's relying on Anakin’s lack of control because he knows how imbalanced and unhinged Anakin can behave, how victimized he can be by his own stormy mind.
But there’s something very different between the Anakin in the hallway and him now: the force collar.
Now, he’s alone in his head. The Force is absent. And it’s actually easier to think clearly without it.
Obi-Wan had taught him just enough about the Force that it had become impossible to ignore. It was another way to view the universe, to interact with it, but it was so loud all the time. His feelings magnified, his mind bombarded with foreign impressions, outside elements. And before Obi-Wan, when Anakin was growing up, the Force had still had a presence around him, a burden pressing into his shoulders and head at all times. But not in this moment.
Without it, Anakin is just Anakin. He feels weightless wearing the collar. And Palpatine clearly thinks he’s been crippled, that he’s powerless, a defanged threat. But Anakin hasn’t ever been powerless, and the Force has very little to do with that.
Now, the Anakin who wanted to be a Jedi takes a backseat.
The Anakin who trained for years to be a Companion steps up. This is a client, this is a negotiation. To get out of this room with both himself and Obi-Wan alive, he’ll have to rely on something other than brute strength. There is no chance he could win against Palpatine in an outright duel no matter how satisfying it would be to attack him, not if he’s right about who the man is--and he thinks he is. But he might still be able to win in a game of trickery, especially given how much his opponent seems to underestimate him.
He takes a deep, calming breath, hands splaying out on the back of the chair. He can only do this once. He has to do this right. He has to lie, to misdirect, better than he ever has in his entire life.
“You’re a Sith, aren’t you? The Master.”
“Yes,” Palpatine says. “I am Darth Sidious.”
He says this with such relish that Anakin almost feels bad for not actually knowing who that is. It sounds very impressive and evil, of course. Does everyone get fake names when they join the Dark Side? Obi-Wan’s never mentioned any sort of fake name. Maybe he doesn’t like his that much.
“And you want me as your Apprentice,” Anakin continues slowly.
“You will be my Apprentice,” Palpatine—Sidious—whoever corrects. “But ours does not have to be an unwilling partnership, my boy. Think of a galaxy remade in our vision. Think of whatever you desire most fervently. Together we can bring it about.”
Anakin thinks about the things he’s wanted most in his entire life. Freedom. His mother’s acceptance. To be a Jedi. Padmé’s hand in marriage. Obi-Wan, looking at him with eyes that aren’t Sith-yellow.
Sidious could never have given him any of that. Other than his freedom, everything he has ever wanted are things that could not be bought or manipulated out of someone, only ever willingly given or not given.
But he has to make Sidious think he’s listening, think he’s considering. He tries to project an air of longing into the Force around him, which is much harder to do when he can’t actually feel the Force at all. He’s hoping that Sidious won’t look too closely, that the man will automatically assume that Anakin is as power-hungry as himself. Certainly there is nothing that Sidious wants that he thinks cannot be bribed or forced into his possession.
Anakin’s loyalty, for example.
He’s very careful to keep his eyes away from Obi-Wan. Sidious already knows that one weak spot, and it would do no good to highlight it now. He doesn’t know how he’ll react if he has to see Obi-Wan in pain in front of him again, but he doesn’t think he’ll be able to keep a level head, no matter how much Companion training he’s had.
“The Jedi,” Anakin says slowly. “They would have seen me a slave again.”
He doesn’t think that’s quite true, as the Jedi had removed his slave chip immediately upon arriving at the Temple, and no one had ever said anything about putting it back. But they hadn’t really helped much in the aftermath, a fact that Anakin uses to build an air of bitter resentment around him.
The Chancellor smiles, looking sickeningly excited. “My boy, what happened to you was a great injustice that they will pay for. It cannot be rewritten or undone, but I will give you knowledge and power that the Jedi have never even known to dream about. We will tear their Temple down around their heads. By dawn, they will lay still in their beds, traitors punished and the War over.”
“Dawn?” Anakin asks, attention snagged on the phrase. “Tomorrow?”
Sidious leans back in his chair and spreads his hands over his desk. “Think of tonight’s celebration for the Jedi as a...farewell party. They cannot exist in the new world, they have proven it time and time again.”
“How?” he exhales, barely more than a whisper of a question as his voice fails him.
“The clones,” Sidious responds, leaning forward. “Their own men will kill them, and I will announce their treachery to the Senate.”
“And me?” Anakin asks. “And Obi-Wan?”
Palpatine sighs, as if disappointed by Anakin’s reaction. Anakin’s a little disappointed by his own reaction too, but he’s never had to look a client in the face and act starry-eyed while they talk about literal genocide. Obviously, he needs to adjust his plan, allow for that which is too horrifying to even contemplate.
“Kenobi has forced my hand earlier than I had planned,” Sidious sighs, as if admitting an embarrassing moment of weakness. “I had wanted to take you first--” ew, “--and then have you lead the attack on the Temple as a...gift to you.
“But as I cannot know what plans, if any, your Obi-Wan has managed to send to the enemy, we must move quickly. No. Tonight, you will stay here in my office, and I will send Kenobi to Mustafar. He will kill the Separatist leaders if he wants to spare you from the pain his disobedience will certainly cause.”
“You would hurt your own apprentice?”
“I do not need an apprentice with all of his organic limbs, my boy. Are you listening, Kenobi? Do you understand what will happen should you fail your master again? Would you enjoy seeing your lover maimed while you are too weak to stop it?”
At this, Anakin allows himself to glance over at Obi-Wan. In the time since his torture, he’s managed to drag himself back to his knees, although he can see the way his body is shaking from here. Sweat-soaked strands of hair fall in front of his eyes as he looks up to Sidious without raising his head all the way. Anakin isn’t sure he can, with the way the tendons stand out on his neck as it is.
Anakin shivers at the look of unbridled, feral hatred in those yellow eyes. Obi-Wan gives a slow nod of his head, refusing to break eye contact until Sidious has turned away. Anakin finds it much harder to stop looking at Obi-Wan now that he’s started. He wants to hold him. He wants to be held in return.
He should have gone back to bed when Obi-Wan had suggested it, that morning on the balcony. He never should have argued--he never should have told Obi-Wan the name of his client, never should have given the man the missing puzzle piece and then just as unknowingly given him a deadline to meet. It must have made him rush something that should not have been rushed. And Force, all the times Anakin had sent him feelings down the bond? He must have thought Anakin was...was moving on at the very least. He must have pressed further than he should have, quicker than was wise. He must have made a stupid mistake and was captured because of it.
It’s Anakin’s fault.
“Make no mistake, he will be punished severely for his crimes against myself and my empire,” Sidious says, almost bored, as he stands and walks around the other Sith, grabbing his hair to wrench his head back for no other reason, Anakin thinks, than because he can.
The lightsaber against Anakin’s back feels like it’s burning his skin, seemingly just as unhappy as Anakin that Palpatine has his slimy hands on his Obi-Wan.
It’s almost time. It has to be. It has to be almost time because Anakin doesn’t know how much longer he can take this.
“And after tonight?” Anakin asks, “after the dawn of your empire, what comes next?”
“I begin to train you of course, my boy. You will be the Emperor’s enforcer, sent to extinguish the slightest hint of rebellion anywhere in the galaxy. Kenobi can help, I suppose. Separately. One of you will always be... safe here on Coruscant.”
Imprisoned to be used as leverage against the other, Sidious doesn’t need to say.
“Training? What does training mean?” He’s getting desperate because he knows that expression on Sidious’ face, recognizes it from countless clients. It’s the face his patrons wear when they’re getting bored of the conversation and they have more fun plans for the night that they want to get on with already.
Usually those plans involve Anakin tied up or Anakin wearing something exciting. Usually they don’t involve genocide and torture and a life of enslavement.
“Well,” Sidious taps his finger against his chin as if he hasn’t thought about it. The hairs on Anakin’s skin stand on edge. He has a bad feeling about this. “That is a hard thing to quantify. You have much to learn, after all. You are a whore, and you have a whore’s education. I don’t hold it against you, my boy, it just means we will have to start with the basics.
“I believe...that bleeding the crystal of the lightsaber you currently have strapped to your back would be as good a place as any to start.”
The game’s up; it’s been played through.
Now it’s either give the weapon over without a fight or fight and lose it involuntarily. Only one of those options would be believable. After all, Palpatine thinks Anakin is controlled by his emotions, and he has made it very clear in the last few minutes what will happen to Anakin--what will happen to Obi-Wan if Sidious’ empire is fully realized.
Anakin--almost any version of Anakin--would stand and fight, even knowing he’d lose. He wouldn’t go back into chains so easily, would choose death before that fate.
Obi-Wan makes a frantic, muffled noise in the corner. He must know the same thing that Sidious thinks he does.
What neither of them know is that Anakin the Companion would never in his life, never on his life, enter into a fair fight, not if he doesn’t think he has a good chance of winning.
He doesn’t need to lose. He just needs to make Palpatine think he’s been beaten. And the Companion knows how to do that, has been trained to beg and whine and plead with strangers for relief, for mercy, for release, while remaining virtually unaffected.
You must always give them what they want, his teacher had told him once. You must never let them know what you want. If there’s ever a difference between those two things, you must make them think you’re giving in for them and them alone.
It’s the Companion that squares his feet and pulls the lightsaber from underneath his shirt, not Anakin the Almost-Jedi, not Obi-Wan’s Anakin, not even truly Anakin’s Anakin.
He holds it with both hands, straight out in front of him. He needs to look strong but weak. He needs to be an easy target, but a believable one. “I won’t,” he says.
Sidious sighs and shakes his head, moving away from Obi-Wan and pulling out his own saber from his robes, igniting the red blade. “You were destined to be a Jedi, my boy. But you were always destined to fail. Too prone to passion, to attachment. A weakness, nothing more. But one that can be corrected in due time.”
Anakin brings the saber up to parry. It’s instinctual, but not very effective.
His opponent is faster than he had thought he’d be, or maybe Anakin is just too slow. A trail of heat kisses past his arm as he jerks away, spinning and blocking the next attack.
He gives ground automatically, widening the distance between them by moving around Palpatine’s desk.
“Think , Anakin,” Sidious says imploringly, his tone at odds with the way he twirls his saber in his hand. “You are cut off from the Force, you have no power, no training.”
“I will do what I must,” he says, the first sentence to pop into his head, one he’s repeated over and over again in the past weeks. He understands now more than ever what Obi-Wan had meant by it. By all of it.
“You will try,” Sidious responds with a disappointed shake of his head, flipping over the desk to land in front of Anakin, who ducks his blade just as it slashes through the wood.
How kriffing acrobatic are these people?
He leaks desperation into the Force as he backs away again, two hands gripped tightly to his blade--to Obi-Wan’s old saber.
Sidious’ hits are powerful and hard to deflect. Each strike leaves Anakin’s arms shaking slightly from the force of them and he thinks he’s going to lose. He knows he is. He’d planned for it, but his body is reacting violently to the stimulus of the fight. His heart is racing, his movements sloppier than they should be.
His instinct tells him to turn and run, to put distance between himself and the skilled swordsman, who is so obviously toying with him. But he can’t, he must stay close to Obi-Wan. He must--
Sidious’ blade cuts clean through the metal of his cybernetic wrist and Anakin cries out in pain. He hadn’t really considered how much that would hurt but he’s reeling from the agony of losing his hand-- again, blast it.
It’s easy work to fall to the ground then, a move that isn’t even faked, just his body’s natural reaction to the pain. He trembles as he curls towards Obi-Wan, who is pulling harshly against his own bonds. They’re only a few feet away from each other, but it’s too far.
Anakin shakily edges closer on his stomach. He needs to be closer, he needs--he thinks--it’s hard to think, but--
“Do you understand now, boy?” Palpatine looms over him, lightsaber still lit and hovering menacingly right by his ear. Anakin hides his head in his arm, awaiting the killing blow, curling his knees up to his chest. He must look pathetic. He feels pathetic. “Do you understand that you are nothing compared to me? You have power, yes, but you can never hope to beat me. Let this be your lesson.”
Obi-Wan’s old lightsaber flies from Anakin’s loose, one handed grip into Palpatine’s other palm. Anakin holds his breath.
Surely, he has not misjudged the man’s propensity for cruelty. Surely he will not leave Anakin like this and this alone.
“I admit that I am disappointed,” Sidious says, turning the blue lightsaber’s hilt slowly around as he looks at the blade. “But plans must change to allow for other people’s failures. I will go to Mustafar tonight.”
He steps over Anakin’s prone form, so that his back is to him. “No!” Anakin gasps, as the meaning of the words sinks in, even as his one available hand makes the most of the Chancellor’s inattention.
“Obi-Wan Kenobi,” Sidious declares, bringing both light-sabers up to somewhere Anakin can’t see from the ground. “Let your death serve as a punishment and a reminder to my foolish Apprentice.”
“No, please!” Anakin stumbles to his knees, and then to his feet, careful to keep a safe distance from Sidious. He slips his last chance into the sleeve of his right arm and presses it to his chest, as if still in pain. That’s easy, he is still in pain. “You said--no, please, you can’t have me without him!”
Sidious turns halfway around to face Anakin in profile. He’s wearing a victorious smirk, even as he looks at Anakin’s figure. Disarmed, without the Force, he’s just a desperate little boy who can’t stand a chance against the greatest Sith Lord in the galaxy. “Fortunately or unfortunately, I suppose, you have other loved ones, my Apprentice. ”
“M-master,” Anakin forces the word out from the tightness of his throat. His voice breaks. He doesn’t even have to fake this plea. If Obi-Wan dies now, because Anakin had miscalculated, he doesn’t know what he’ll do. “Master, please no. I’m yours. Don’t--”
“You will always be more his than mine if I allow him to live,” Sidious has turned back to Obi-Wan now. This is Anakin’s chance. This is the one thing he can still do, the only thing he has left to try. Sidious is saying something to Obi-Wan. The blades are rising in the air. Anakin is steps away.
He slips the vibro-blade out of his right sleeve, into his left hand. It’s a bad angle. It’s his non-dominant hand.
But he had done so much practicing with his left hand when he was out of commission that it shouldn’t make a difference in the end. Desperation should make up for any strength he's lacking.
It’s a matter of seconds, in the end.
His feet move lightly on the floor. He is steps away. He is a step away. Sidious is turning. He must feel his breath on the back of his neck. Maybe he feels a warning in the Force.
Anakin slides his left hand under Sidious’ raised arm and his right hand up against the man’s chin. It tilts back. There’s a glint in the light of the red ‘saber.
The Companion drags the blade across the exposed throat, as deep as he can get it. Blood hits his face. Sidious lets out a gargle of a surprised shriek, even as he tries to twist around, stumbling back, one lightsaber clattering to the floor so the man can hold his neck, while the other lightsaber descends towards Anakin.
Anakin braces for it. He had thought he wouldn’t be able to move, that he’d be hurt or--or worse. But it would be worth it, to know that he’d dealt the monster a killing blow. It would be worth it to know that one way or another at least Obi-Wan would leave this room alive.
But instead, Sidious loses his footing with another choked off screech. For a second, Anakin can’t understand what’s happened, why dodging the ‘saber is a simple matter of throwing himself backward out of its reach. Surely Sidious hasn’t lost that much blood yet? But then he sees the way Obi-Wan has shifted from behind Sidious, from his knees to his side.
He must have kicked the man’s feet from out beneath him with the only thing he could move.
Anakin scrambles to his feet and toward where Sidious has fallen. He kicks the red lightsaber out of reach and descends on the man with fury and a vibroblade.
The Companion’s job is done, and the persona cedes control gracefully.
It’s Anakin’s turn now to make sure the man stays down. “I said no,” he hisses as he slams the knife down once-twice-three times. He’s not thinking, he’s really not even feeling much besides a poisonous hatred that seems to take up the entirety of his mind.
His hands are stained lightsaber red. The man beneath him is most definitely dead. But it’s not enough, he has to pay for what he tried to do to Anakin, tried to do to his loved ones, to the galaxy as a whole. To Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan. A noise from behind him draws him up short, brings him back into his body long enough to remember the other person in the room. He moves off of the body without any thought other than that he has to get to Obi-Wan now, has to make sure he’s okay, has to touch him, hold him, kiss him--
Obi-Wan’s sat up again by the time Anakin gets to him, and he reaches out immediately to take the gag out of his mouth.
The sight of his hand brings him to a halt. It’s shining with blood.
He has a killer's hand now. It’s shaking. It’s bloody.
It isn’t his blood. It could have been.
He starts shivering as he kneels, staring at his hand which is still hovering. He can’t bring himself to look away from it. If he looks up, then he’ll have to eventually look back, to face what he’s done. He killed a man. He.
He enjoyed it.
Obi-Wan leans forward just enough to press his cheek against Anakin’s palm. He almost flinches back, but something in him breaks at the contact, at the way Obi-Wan’s eyes soften as they look at him, filling with devotion and adoration. And love.
Of course a killer would love a killer.
The term applies to both of them now.
Shakily, Anakin reaches behind Obi-Wan’s head to cut through the gag. If the blood gets in his hair, at least the red won’t show against the russet.
“Anakin,” is the first thing he says in a voice rough from screaming. “Darling, Anakin, dearheart, Anakin, sweet one--Ahn-- ”
Anakin kisses him just to shut him up. It’s not soft or loving at all, more like another form of fighting. He’s trying to bruise Obi-Wan’s mouth with his own; he tastes blood and keeps going. There’s nothing sweet about him anymore, is what he’s trying to tell the other man.
He grips his hand in the collar of Obi-Wan’s robes and tries to pull him closer, but he doesn’t move much. Unwilling to lose this of all battles, he climbs onto Obi-Wan’s thighs, perching on top of them and changing the angle of the kiss as he opens his mouth to let Obi-Wan’s tongue inside. Obi-Wan’s trying to say something but the last thing Anakin wants to do is talk. Or think. It's enough for now to simply feel.
He whines against Obi-Wan’s mouth when the man pulls away, giving chase to the other’s lips. Obi-Wan has the nerve to evade him. Anakin thinks he’s going to vibrate out of his skin, that he’s going to fly apart if he isn’t given this right now.
“--akin, Anakin , untie me, damn you,” Obi-Wan’s words pierce through the fog in his mind. “Let me hold you, Anakin.”
Oh. Anakin can do that. He picks the knife up from where he must have dropped it in the haze of panicked kisses, and makes short work of the rest of Obi-Wan’s bindings. It’s almost funny how easily they fall apart now, considering how tightly they had held the Sith back just a few minutes ago.
As soon as he’s completely free, he’s pushing Anakin down onto the floor. His hands are shaking, his whole body is shaking.
Anakin wonders how many times Obi-Wan had been hit with Sidious’ force lightning while Anakin had been busy dancing only a few floors below. Or maybe, like him, Obi-Wan’s body is experiencing both an adrenaline crash and a bone-deep sense of numbing relief.
He angles his face up for a kiss, because clearly that’s what they should be doing right now, but Obi-Wan bypasses his head to bury his face into his neck.
It takes a second or two for Anakin to realize that Obi-Wan is...is crying near silently, his only tell being that Anakin can feel the moisture on his skin. Hesitantly he raises his hand to Obi-Wan’s hair and presses him closer. He feels like crying too, but they can’t both lose it on the floor of the dead Chancellor’s private study.
This abrupt break between them snaps Anakin back firmly into his head. He knows they should leave soon, quickly. The fact that they haven’t been interrupted yet is amazing, a gift from the Force, but it can’t last. Won’t last.
But he needs this first. Just this. Just for a few seconds more.
Obi-Wan finds his composure much faster than Anakin would have. He pulls back far enough that he can see his entire face. Anakin wonders what he’s looking at, what he’s looking for, what he finds there instead.
The Sith trails one hand over Anakin’s cheekbone gently, mouth quirked in a small smile. “Darling, you just killed the Chancellor of the kriffing Republic.”
Anakin sits up so they’re on equal level. Obi-Wan’s hand refuses to detach from his face. “Can you stop sounding so happy about it?”
“How could you expect me to not be happy?” Obi-Wan leans forward enough to brush his lips against Anakin’s cheek. He lets his eyelashes flutter close to soak up the feeling. “You are here,” he moves to the tip of his nose. “And you are alright,” his other cheek, “and I am here,” his forehead, “and I am alive,” his lips. “And the war will end soon and we will be safe. There will be no more Sith.”
“There’ll be you,” Anakin whispers, opening his eyes to gaze into Obi-Wan’s yellow ones. “Was he lying? He told me--that you renounced it--the, the Sith. That you killed your Master. For...for me? Will you come back now? To...to me?”
Obi-Wan blinks at him, before pulling away completely. No. No, this is the opposite of what Anakin wants.
The man stands on shaking feet and stumbles towards the desk. He has to go past Sidious’ body to get there, and he pauses for a second to look over Anakin’s work.
Anakin himself can’t look for too long at it. He might be sick.
He stands as well, watching as Obi-Wan shuffles through the desk drawers with a single-minded frenzy. A few minutes in, he emerges victorious, holding a datapad in his hands. He beckons Anakin forward.
“This is why I was gone for so long,” Obi-Wan announces quietly, holding it out to Anakin who takes it cautiously. “On there is everything I could compile about Darth Sidious, his apprentice, my master, and the Separatist war effort. Every money trail I could dig up, or pay someone else to dig up, all there, all implicating Chancellor Palpatine as a traitor to the Republic.
“And probably of the most interest to the Jedi,” Obi-Wan takes the pad back and swipes it open with a flick of his fingers, scrolling down the pages upon pages of information until he gets to the newest entry. “The Clones,” his voice drips with a muted, and more dangerous for it, fury as he stares at the writing on the tablet. “Were created with chips in their brains that, when activated, would override their independent mental functions until they can only obey their orders.”
“Kill the Jedi,” Anakin breathes. Obi-Wan nods and shuts the datapad off harshly, closing his eyes for a moment before looking at Anakin again.
“I couldn’t just leave the war, Anakin,” he says quietly.
“I understand,” Anakin replies, just as quietly. “You had to finish what you started. You had. A duty.”
Obi-Wan looks frustrated, and he grabs at Anakin’s wrist tightly before letting go as if suddenly remembering himself. “I--suppose I did, to the people who have--died in front of me, because of me, for me. Yes. But more that that, I had to make sure that you’d be safe. For all the people I've lost to this senseless war, I had to make sure you would not be one of them. That no matter what happened, how it ended, what you thought of me by the time it all ended...that you would not be put at risk. Sith or no, I will always do what I can to protect you, even if it’s from me.”
Anakin holds his breath. It feels like his future is hanging in the balance.
“I am uncertain if I will ever be the man I was,” Obi-Wan says haltingly. “But I know I am the closest I may ever get to him when I’m with you."
If there is good in him still, you’d be the person he’d allow to see it, Padme’s words echo around Anakin’s suddenly very empty mind.
“I would give you everything in the galaxy,” Obi-Wan continues. “Everything that I could. I...would give up everything I am, everything I have, to be a man worthy of your love. Of. Of you. I thought I knew agony before, but in these last months you have made me rethink its definition time and time again--” he raises a pointed eyebrow at Anakin, who flushes at the reminder of his petty misuse of their Force bond. “And I know now it must simply be the state of living on the peripherals of your life, feeling your presence only occasionally and having to make do, as a dying man in the desert must make do with whatever shade he can find in between long, cold nights.”
Gently now, Obi-Wan raises a hand to caress Anakin's cheek. Anakin wonders hazily how long the human body can go without breathing. His chest feels tight, his lungs frozen.
“And yet I find I would choose that pain over your total absence every time. I never once thought of breaking the bond, even on the nights you tested my resolve in the cruellest ways. I understand now that the only parts of myself that I would not give up under pain of death are the parts of me that remind me most of you. I apologize that it took me so long, dearheart, to realize what you already knew.”
Anakin wants to throw his arms around Obi-Wan, his Obi-Wan, who is saying all of these wonderful things, but he isn’t sure the other man can handle his weight at the moment. He’s leaning half against the desk as it is, desperately trying to appear as if he is not still feeling the after-effects of a night full of torture.
“What now?” Anakin asks, and he means Where will we go? Do you have credits saved up? Do we have time to stop by my apartment before we leave? Where can we leave this datapad? What planet are you thinking of living on? I think I want a forest planet, but I would settle for a place like Naboo.
Obi-Wan doesn’t seem to understand his question though, because he smiles like Anakin is holding a vibroblade to his neck now. “That’s up to you, my dearest. If you want to leave with me, we can go wherever you want in the galaxy. If you want to stay, you can, I’ll understand. I’ll...I’ll respect it.”
Anakin has to swallow a scoff at that. Not because he doesn’t think Obi-Wan will genuinely try his hardest to respect his decision, but because:
“Obi-Wan, you said it yourself, I just killed the kriffing Chancellor of the Republic. I can’t stay here. I have to run, even if there’s enough evidence on that datapad to convict him, I still killed him. There’s no proof my life was in danger. They’d arrest first and ask questions after, but who knows how long after will be? Look at me, do you think I would do well in prison?”
Obi-Wan furrows his eyebrows as if he hasn’t actually considered this at all. He walks over to Palpatine’s corpse and stares down at it in contemplation, cocking his head. “The throat and chest,” he murmurs, mostly to himself. “And because of the collars, neither of our Force signatures are present on the body either.”
He drops to his knees and sticks a hand into one of the pockets, coming up with an old-fashioned key that he rolls his eyes at but uses to unlock his own collar.
He gestures for Anakin to lean down, but Anakin shakes his head. “Not yet,” he denies. “I need to think clearly right now, and it’s...quiet in my mind without the Force.”
Obi-Wan looks unhappy at this--he's probably experiencing the same aching void of a blocked bond that Anakin had felt earlier--but doesn’t argue. “I respect your decision,” he says slowly, like he’s been practicing.
Anakin feels the sudden urge to laugh hysterically, although doing so as his lover--ex-lover?--leans over the body of his murder victim in said victim’s private office isn’t necessarily the best timing for such a reaction.
Obi-Wan stands up again though, calling his old lightsaber to his hand with a simple motion. He looks at it with something like pained wonder, before looking up at Anakin. “You’re right. They won’t let the man who murdered the Chancellor go.”
“Exactly!” Anakin says. “Thank you! So, where are w--”
“If I cut here, along yours, and down a few times through the chest--well, it wouldn’t be enough to fool the Jedi, but it should be enough for a Force Null person, one who is inexperienced in identifying lightsaber wounds.”
“You can leave, back the way you came. Ah. Perhaps stop at a fresher before rejoining what’s left of the party. You have a little--” Obi-Wan makes a gesture that encompasses his whole face. “You look quite beautiful with blood on you, dear one, but I don’t suppose the high society of Coruscant would share my opinion.”
“You’d be surprised,” Anakin mutters automatically. Obi-Wan’s nostrils flare, but he manages to keep the rest of his face still. Either he really has been practicing, or the weeks of forced exposure therapy to Anakin’s sex life has desensitized him to Anakin’s more tame comments.
Either way. That’s not important right now. “You’re not going to--to take the fall for my murder,” Anakin splutters.
Obi-Wan arches an eyebrow. “Why ever not? I would venture to say that at this point Falling is almost expected of me.”
Anakin wants to groan and also hit him upside the head and maybe in the face. Just once. Just because he seems so set on making this the hardest thing to ever happen. He takes a calming breath and then another one when the first doesn’t work. The second doesn’t either, and Anakin has the inane thought that Obi-Wan manages to throw off his control more than Palpatine had. This stupid man. So set on giving Anakin a choice in the matter that he’d give up his own freedom for a set of chains if it meant Anakin could leave.
“I don’t,” Anakin tries and then stops abruptly, running his hand down his face. Obi-Wan is watching him expectantly. They’re running out of time, but Anakin needs to say this right. “I don’t need a choice, Obi-Wan. I made mine already. I love you. And I know that you love me. And I’m sorry I didn’t realize it sooner, that I had to make you try and prove it when I--I’ve felt how you must feel sometimes. I was so angry when I thought you’d died, I wanted revenge, and then when he was hurting you in front of me I wanted to kill him for it, and I did and--and I enjoyed it.”
Anakin takes a shaky breath, his vision starting to blur as the night crashes down around him. Obi-Wan steps forward immediately at the first signs of his distress, but Anakin waves him off. He needs to get this out. “I don’t want to go without you, I don’t want to go anywhere without you, please, Master.”
Obi-Wan has his arms wrapped around him from one blink to the next. Anakin distantly thinks that if Sidious had responded as well to Anakin’s tearful master they would have had a very different scenario on their hands, but the way Obi-Wan’s placing soft little kisses onto his face makes him lose the ability to think irrelevant thoughts very quickly.
“Anakin, dear one, please, I need to feel you, please, let me.”
It takes a second to process the words. Sure, Anakin’s fucked people in some pretty weird places, but never next to a corpse. But on the other hand, he hasn’t felt Obi-Wan’s hands on him in much too long of a time. And maybe if they put the desk between them and the body, it wouldn’t kill the mood?
Hah. Kill the mood.
But then Anakin’s brain clues into the fact that Obi-Wan is scrabbling almost desperately at the Force collar Anakin’s still wearing and everything actually clicks together. That makes more sense.
“Okay,” he whispers, because he wants this too after denying himself for so long. Faster than should be possible, the collar falls to the ground between their feet and Anakin’s mind is swept up in Obi-Wan’s presence.
He’s everywhere immediately, surrounding him on all sides, projecting a current of love and adoration so strong Anakin’s almost afraid he’ll be caught in the riptide and dragged out to drown.
“Yes, yes,” he says mindlessly into the side of Obi-Wan’s neck as they trade breaths back and forth, momentarily overwhelmed as their bond sings between them and the Force vibrates around them.
So afraid--so scared--thought I wouldn’t be able to--thought I’d have to watch you die--
I’m alright--you’re alright--I was afraid--helpless---thought I’d have to watch you die--
They surface back in their own minds at the same time, although their signatures stay tightly interwoven.
Obi-Wan turns back to the desk and grabs the datapad they had left there.
“If we do this, there will be no going back,” he warns him as if Anakin isn’t perfectly aware of what he’s giving up, as if Obi-Wan thinks he’s under some kind of misconception about what he’ll be getting in return
As if Anakin isn’t aware of the cost of these kinds of things, of everything.
“I know,” he murmurs, lacing their fingers together firmly and smiling in response to the boyish grin that Obi-Wan tosses to him. They still have to find a way out of this place, find someone to give the datapad to, find parts to fix Anakin’s arm, find a place to live with whatever funds they can pool together.
But here, in this moment, with Obi-Wan’s Force presence as tightly intertwined with his as their hands are, no price has ever been easier to pay. No return has ever had so much potential value.